When a traveler experiences some kind of crisis during a business trip — whether it’s simply a flight cancellation or a medical emergency — how well a company can respond to the incident largely hinges upon one thing: the ability to communicate. Without it, there really isn’t much an organization can do to assist its employees in need.

With that in mind, here are six steps for building an effective communication system for those moments when travelers urgently need it the most.

Step 1: Equipping them with the right tools

If there’s anything the 21st century has taught us, it’s how dependent we are on technology to communicate with others. That becomes even more apparent during an emergency situation.

Because there’s no telling which networks may be down during a crisis, you cannot rely on one system. Text, phone, email, apps — they all should be made available in case one channel gets knocked out or tied up.

For those of you in search of a solution that offers all these communication capabilities, check out Expert Care™ from American Express Global Business Travel (GBT).

A password-protected intranet or social media page where employees can receive updates and alerts as well as notify the entire team back home of their status also may be helpful — as long as it’s completely private/internal. You don’t want the public scrutinizing your social media updates at a time like this, especially if it’s a high-profile situation.

Step 2: Providing access to the right people

Equally important as having the right communication tools in place is having the right people on the other side of them. And because you never know when a disaster may strike or what time zone it’ll happen in, this support staff needs to be available 24/7.

Since most companies do not have the luxury of an around-the-clock travel security team, many use their travel management company for after-hours coverage (which American Express GBT provides) and lean on a travel risk management firm (like our partner iJET) to fill in other gaps.

In addition to furnishing your travelers with emergency contact numbers, be sure you have access to their key details as well. On an annual basis, have employees update their traveler profile, which should include their current home and mobile numbers, personal and work email addresses as well as family emergency contact information.

Step 3: Educating your employees

This is a critical one. Having the right tools and support team will mean absolutely nothing if your travelers haven’t the faintest idea about the resources available to them.

Make sure travelers are aware by sending them regular communications throughout the year. Encourage them to save emergency contact numbers in their mobile phone and to download the Amex GBT Mobile app, which has a click-to-call function they can use for travel assistance 24/7.

And advise them to keep their mobile phone charged at all times during a trip in case an emergency does arise.

Also tied up in all this education and training: reminding travelers why compliance is essential for keeping them safe. When employees make out-of-policy bookings and their itineraries aren’t fully captured, it will make your job of reaching out and connecting with them that much harder and delay the help you can get out to them.

Step 4: Testing the system

Just like with any form of crisis management, it’s not enough simply to devise a plan — you need to test it to see if it works.

Before an actual crisis occurs, conduct an audit on your communication tools and get input from travelers about what areas may need improvement. You also may wish to collaborate with the team in charge of the entire workplace emergency response plan to get their feedback on best practices.

Step 5. Delivering the message

Of course, the message itself and how it’s delivered will depend on the specific situation. For minor disruptions, such as a flight cancellation due to inclement weather, you may have an automated system reaching out to travelers, like our Proactive Traveler Care™ from American Express GBT.

During a more severe situation when a traveler needs dire assistance, a phone call seems more appropriate.

Choose wisely the people (or third party) who may be connecting directly with impacted travelers during intense situations. They should be competent and have the expertise to quickly establish credibility and authority during a crisis situation as well as be empathetic and compassionate, especially if travelers are facing a scary or urgent situation.

Remember: People process and act on information differently, especially when operating in flight-or-fight mode, so be extra mindful of the language used and how it’s expressed.

It may be difficult for a traveler in an emergency situation to concentrate or follow what you’re saying, so speak slowly and calmly as you convey instructions and explain what is being done on your end to get them the help they need.

Step 6: Following up after

Once the traveler has made it back home safe and sound, reach out to them to get their opinion on the company’s response efforts and learn what they found worked and where the organization may have missed the mark. Not only will this help you to improve the system for the next time around, but it’s also a subtle way of communicating to employees that the company does indeed have their back.

To learn more about how American Express GBT can assist with your duty of care needs, contact us today.